When my son was 18 months old, I went along with a friend to pick up her child from preschool. Some of the kids were just a year older, but they were listening to the teacher and following directions. When I imagined my child sitting there on that A-B-C carpet, I felt queasy. Follow directions? Him? After all, if I asked him to pour food from a cup into in the dog bowl, he'd be more likely to pile it into his dump truck instead.
Turns out there wasn't anything wrong with my son; experts say that young toddlers still have trouble focusing on what you're saying and following directions. "Toddlers are inherently distractible. They don't have the ability to stick with one thing as long as an older child can. After a couple of minutes, they're off to other adventures," explains psychologist Rahil Briggs, Psy.D., assistant professor in the department of pediatrics at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, in New York City. In other words, it's perfectly natural for your 15-month-old to wander across the room to the bookshelf halfway through the book you're reading aloud. Another reason your toddler may not comply with your requests: She's taking her first steps toward becoming her own person. "A toddler won't always be willing to do what you want because she's flexing her new independence muscle," says Dr. Briggs. "In fact, she may even be tempted to do exactly the opposite of what you ask."
Fortunately, if you practice now your child will be ready to get with the program in preschool. Capitalize on her natural love of playing games with these ability-boosting activities.